Political Animal


February 26, 2013 11:48 AM The Secret Nelson Rockefeller Most Feared the World Would Learn About Him

By Paul Glastris

It looks like the filibuster of Chuck Hagel’s nomination will end today. Personally, I don’t think it would be a tragedy if Hagel didn’t become defense secretary, since it would open the way for Michele Flournoy, who in addition to being a loyal Democrat and a woman is in many of the ways that matter more qualified. Still, Hagel is plenty qualified and it’s a disgrace that such a brave and honorable man has been put through the gauntlet of incoherent complaint and politicized posturing by members of his own party.

Writing about the Hagel nomination in the Washington Post this past weekend, former ambassador, GOP uber-lobbyist and confirmation prep expert Tom Korologos noted that in the entire 20th Century only three cabinet nominees were voted down, and only one of them, John Tower, was a secdef nominee (and his nomination wasn’t filibustered). There are lots of interesting historical bits in the piece. But not included is a great story that Korologos, who has helped over 300 nominees win confirmation, told at a lunch I attended last week put on by the National Hellenic Society that’s worth passing on.

In 1974, after Richard Nixon resigned and Gerald Ford became president, Ford brought Nelson Rockerfeller into the Oval Office and offered to nominate him to be vice president. When Ford and everyone else was leaving the room, Korologos approached Rockefeller, explained that he had been chosen to shepherd his nomination through the Senate, and invited the governor to his office to start the grueling process of going through Rockefeller’s past. One of the first questions Rockefeller asked was whether his financial disclosure forms might be made public. This is Washington, Korologos told him, you can bet someone will leak them. The hearings ultimately revealed, among other things, that Rockefeller had failed to pay $1 million in taxes and financed a negative biography of a political rival. But that day, Rockefeller confessed to Korologos his biggest concern: that the disclosure would show that Rockefeller was worth “only” $600 million, far less than everyone assumed, and he would lose stature in the eyes of his billionaire buddies.

Paul Glastris is the editor in chief of the Washington Monthly.


  • navamske on February 26, 2013 11:57 AM:

    "Rockerfeller"? Seriously.

  • c u n d gulag on February 26, 2013 11:59 AM:

    Yes, it must be terrible to have your peers find out that you're not as rich as you said you were.

    For some reason or other, I suspect that Donald Trump suffers from the same fear - that people will find out he's nowhere near as rich as he says he is.

    The difference is, Rockefeller was smart enough, and rational enough, not to believe his own press clippings, like the delusional Trump does.

  • Kevin (not the famous one) on February 26, 2013 12:02 PM:

    Proving, once again, it's never enough for these guys.

  • Peter C on February 26, 2013 12:15 PM:

    This was back when (near) billionaires were expected to pay their fair share in income taxes. Nelson's marginal income tax rate was 75% in 1974. Nowadays, it's lower than yours or mine, I'd guess. And, that's before the little *mistakes* (like 'accidently' underpaying by a million dollars) which our system enables for the ultra-rich but 'withholds' from Americans who earn their living from a paycheck.

  • mb on February 26, 2013 12:36 PM:

    "Personally, I donít think it would be a tragedy if Hagel didnít become defense secretary..."

    I feel you, as the kids say, but I am intrigued about the possibility of having Secretaries of State and Defense who both seemed to have actually learned the lesson of Viet Nam. That lesson was not the Powell Doctrine of "go in hard and heavy and come out quick." It was "don't go in where you have no business because war is hell." Kerry and Hagel have internalized this lesson as few other national figures have. Having them both together in the cabinet could be transforming to the trajectory of our foreign policy.

  • bobbo on February 26, 2013 12:53 PM:

    I believe Billie Holiday sang, "I'll be rich as Rocky-fella."

  • bk on February 26, 2013 1:44 PM:

    Editor-in-chief needs an editor.

  • xpatriate on February 26, 2013 2:11 PM:


  • Rand Careaga on February 26, 2013 2:31 PM:

    As others have pointed out: it's Rockefeller, not "Rockerfeller."

  • Kathryn on February 26, 2013 3:47 PM:

    "Personally, I don't think it would be a tragedy if Hagel didn't become Secretary of Defense".

    Can't agree with that, first of all defeat of Pres. Obama's choice would be damaging to him and much ballyhooed by the disloyal opposition. Second, Sen. Hagel is a fine man who took brave stands at the Veteran's Administration as well as as a U.S. Senator. As the first enlisted man to head Defense, it's groundbreaking and he's the presidents choice, he deserves the job and Pres. Obama deserves his cabinets picks just as other presidents have.

  • Anonymous on February 27, 2013 12:51 PM:

    I believe Billie Holiday sang, "I'll be rich as Rocky-fella."

    Ella Fitzgerald for sure -- and scores of others who covered "Sunny Side of the Street."